Monday, October 31, 2011

Bouchon Lemon Tarts

Back in 2008 during a trip to San Francisco to visit my son, I made a pilgrimage to Yountville in the Napa Valley. It was a pilgrimage because the small town (population 3000) is home to more than its fair share of world-class restaurants, specifically Thomas Keller world-class restaurants. Along with the renowned French Laundry (where I couldn't get a booking), there is also Bouchon bistro (where I had lunch that day)and Ad Hoc (which is on my must-do lists for the next trip). The culinary highlight for the day however was the (also Thomas Keller owned) Bouchon Bakery's Lemon Tart. Not your usual ho-hum bakery fare, this was a velvety classic sabayon with just the right balance of tart and sweet in an unusual pine-nut crust which added a nutty and ever-so slightly savoury note.

I've always been keen to recreate the tart at home and after finding the recipe on Epicurious (extracted from Keller's cookbook Bouchon) I had a crack at it today, and was particularly impressed ( if I say so  myself) with the end result. While the pine-nut crust is expensive to make (I bought my pine nuts in bulk at Costco), the quantities given make a large batch which can be frozen. Processing 300 grams of pine-nuts was made much easier by the Kitchenaid food processor David gave me for my birthday (I dropped so many hints he would have had to have been completely dense not to have got the message!) Although the recipe says to press the pastry into the tin, I found that once chilled it was actually possible to roll between two sheets of baking paper and get a much thinner, crisper and neater result. The sabayon is amazing - quite a lengthy process if, as I did, you don't keep the water in the bottom of your double boiler at a good simmer - but really worth the time standing over the stove. It was light, smooth and almost mousse-like after it had cooled. Great for the lemon tart, but I can see all sorts of flavour variations in the future: lime, blood orange, lemongrass, Pedro Ximinez etc etc. It would also make a great dessert on its own if you can't be bothered with pastry, spoon into a martini glass and serve with a crisp savoiardi biscuit, biscotti, or tuille. Because I didn't have time to set the tarts aside for 1 hour, and also because I don't have a broiler/griller in the Aga, I sprinkled the top with sugar and caramelized it with my Aldi blow torch. Maybe not as neat and professional looking as the Bouchon version, but enough of a standout to add it to my regular repertoire.

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